Challenge 15: Find a Chinese girl taller than Albert and take a picture with her.
Despite this being one of the students’ favorite challenges for us, we always expected to fail especially since, in our combined 10 years in China, neither of us have ever seen one. Girls taller than 190 cm (6′ 3″) aren’t really that easy to find in any country.
It’s widely accepted that northerners are taller than southerners. But even when we were north of the Yangtze River (the traditional dividing line between the North and South), we scanned the horizon for candidates but found none. We were constantly on the lookout for anyone who exceeded Albert’s height, but in the end only found four boys who were tall enough.
In the end, we just ran out of time because the filming of the TV show was on day 29 and we had to come back to our college from Changsha the next day. We’d been advised by a few people to seek out professional athletes (especially basketball and volleyball players), but even if we’d had a chance to do that there was no guarantee (only four of China’s national women’s basketball team are taller than Albert).
But, we did snap a backup picture along the way (see below) just in case we came up short on this challenge. Maybe the students will let us pass when they see the photo. But even if they don’t, we still beat the fortune tellers’ predictions that we’d only accomplish 9 of our 15 challenges.
Final Stats for the Trip:
Challenges completed: 12 of 15
Total days: 30
Total distance traveled: over 7000 km (4350 miles)
(As the crow flies, that’s about the distance of London to New Delhi or Anchorage to Washington DC)
Total provinces visited: 11 (Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Chongqing, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong)
Different modes of transportation after start: 12 (bicycle, boat, bus, donkey cart, motor bike, mini van, private car, semi / lorry , SUV / 4×4, taxi, tractor, train, tricycle taxi)
What Happens Next?
We’re going to spend the next months writing the book. This blog has just given brief glimpses into the stories that we’re looking forward to telling. We’ll put any updates about the book on this same blog so subscribers will automatically receive book news.
Thanks to everyone who followed our trip and especially thanks to all the generous, warm-hearted Chinese people who helped us along the way!
Hunan province is famous for Chairman Mao’s hometown…and a TV show aired all over China where contestants tackle an obstacle course and almost always end up falling dramatically into the water (click here for the official website for the show, all in Chinese). We’d hitch-hiked for 2 days to get here and it wasn’t because of Mao.
After going to the TV centre and getting ourselves invited for an interview, we were immediately accepted onto the show to be filmed 2 days later. We’d seen it on TV many times and always thought how easy it looked, but a quick tour of the course revealed how much harder it is in real life. We should have known that any obstacle course involving a pole vault would be tricky! In fact it was hard just walking up the ramp to the start!
We were told to turn up for filming with our back-packs and a map so the presenters could interview us about our trip. With the cameras rolling, Albert did an amazing job fielding all their questions in Chinese before we both serenaded the female presenter. Once the formalities were out of the way, it was time to meet our fate on the obstacle course.
While we both ultimately failed and ended up in the water, we met with somewhat different endings. One of us drew gasps from the audience by falling at the very first hurdle and landing flat on his face, while the other went on to win a small consolation water heater! You’ll have to wait to find out who was who, but we’ll send out the link to the show as soon as it’s aired.
Challenge 13: Hitchhike between two cities for less than the cost of the bus fare.
Huangshan was not only one of the first places we’d been to without a train station, it was also off the main bus routes. This, coupled with the stunning rural setting, made it the perfect place to attempt our hitch-hiking challenge.
We’d both been looking forward to this challenge although to be honest we didn’t know if it was even possible. Neither of us had ever seen a hitchhiker in China, let alone a foreign one. One lady we spoke to told us, “You’ll never do it. You’re foreigners so no-one will stop because they’ll be afraid of you.”
Just to make things harder, our destination, Changsha, was over 500 miles away – that’s the same as Phoenix to Salt Lake City and more than the length of England!
We left armed with paper and marker pens for making signs for towns to aim for along the way. We also had a flattened cardboard box with the words “To Changsha” written on it by Mr. Xie, our calligraphy teacher. With no idea how long our journey would take us, we started out early from outside our hotel.
Amazingly, within 30 seconds, two newlyweds stopped their car. “We’ll take you to the next town for 80 yuan” they offered. It was an expensive start, despite bargaining them down a bit, but we were unsure if any other vehicles would stop so we hopped in. “Impossible! No way you’ll make it!” the young husband said when we told him our plan. But actually it was the start of an incredible 2-day adventure that took us all the way to Changsha.
In total we took 7 rides: 3 trucks, 2 cars, a minivan, and a 4×4. We met a fascinating and diverse bunch of people and from the second ride onwards no-one wanted any money at all. It was a very fun 2 days which gave us some great stories to tell, including one of the biggest surprises of our whole trip (and it wasn’t that we almost got struck by lightning!).
You’ll have to watch the videos on our website to find out what happened and also see the near miss with the lightning.
Photos (click on them to see the full image)
(To see captions for each picture, please visit the website)